For every bride and groom who coo over kids at weddings, there’s another couple that’s nervous kids might disrupt things.
Neither group is wrong exactly—asking children to be a part of your celebration (as participants, attendees, or both)—can definitely impact the big day.
That’s why, before you finalize your guest list, you should consider whether or not you want to invite them. Looking for the ultimate Wedding Reception Venue in Melbourne? Look no further, Boutique Events Group is here.
Here’s what you need to know about how to handle this sometimes sensitive scenario—without getting on anyone’s wrong side.
Make Your Decision Early On
The two of you need to sort this matter out well before you start writing your wedding invitations and be forewarned; it’s a topic that tends to divide people.
According to one survey, 25% of people believe that all guests should be able to bring children to a wedding.
However, the reality is that accommodating families on your big day is often harder than imagined.
There are a few factors you have to consider. For one thing, children can be unpredictable, and you will need to rely on your parents to take control.
You also need to think about how having kids in attendance will affect your wedding budget; in addition to a more significant overall headcount, will you also have to arrange for dedicated childcare services?
On the other hand, issuing an all-out ban on kids at your wedding is likely to ruffle some feathers.
If you happen to have close family members with little ones, they may find this hard-line rule unaccommodating or even rude.
Other guests with children will have to make plans for childcare ahead of time, which can be especially challenging at a destination wedding, where they’re away from their regular go-to resources at home.
Be Clear About Your Expectations
Next, you need to let your guests know what you’ve decided.
You’ll need to be 100% clear about the policy for kids at your wedding, but how you deliver this information is up to you.
You may want to include it within your wedding invitations or create a separate page about children at your wedding on your wedding website.
Regardless of how you convey the information, make sure you include:
Whether or Not Children are Invited
Of course, the most critical piece of information you will need to share is whether you have decided to invite children to your wedding.
If you are not inviting any children, be honest but avoid over-explaining your reason. This is your wedding day, and you have the final say.
Which Specific Children are Invited
If you’re making a compromise and only inviting specific children, you should tell your guests which ones can come.
Be aware that some guests—for example, the ones who cannot bring children—may not take the news well. Tread carefully. Explain that you have a guest limit.
What you expect from the parents
You should also let parents know what you expect from them in terms of care; the majority of these duties should not fall on your shoulders.
Let each of them know that they will need to take responsibility for their own family throughout the event.
Is It Appropriate Not to Invite Kids?
Yes—especially if the wedding is in the evening or is very formal.
It may be more of a challenge to restrict children during daytime or casual wedding without people feeling offended.
The no-kids rule works best when the majority of the families are local, which means that parents can leave their children with familiar babysitters for the entire day or drop them off between the ceremony and reception.
If you’re hosting a destination wedding, it’s harder to not invite the kids.
Address Your Envelopes Explicitly
Address your envelopes adequately.
The traditional way to indicate whether a child is invited is to include his or her name on the invitation.
If your card has both an outer and inner envelope, the child’s parents’ names should appear on the outer envelope, but on the inner, the name should be written beneath the parents’ names. (If you’re using just an outer envelope, of course, the child’s name should also be on it.)
If the child is over age 18, he or she should receive a separate invitation, even if he or she’s still living at home.
It’s generally not in good taste to address an envelope to “Mr and Mrs Smith and Family” since the wording can be vague.
However, the phrasing’s okay as long as you write the names of those invited on the inside envelope.
Call All Guests With Children
After your invitation is sent (or better yet, before), make a call to your friends and family who have children to explain that your wedding is or isn’t child-friendly.
If you’re willing to invite this person to your wedding, you should be glad to pick up the phone and have a conversation with him or her.
This is a convenient approach if you’re worried about a stubborn friend or flaky relative bringing children against your wishes.
And, if you’re arranging for childcare services, a telephone call is a great way to let the parents know that their children will be well taken care of at the wedding.
How to Manage Children at Weddings
If you have decided to have children at your wedding, it’s not just a matter of drawing up a guest list of the little ones you know and love; you also need to think about how you’re going to manage and entertain them.
Think Through the Flow of your Day
Before you start, you really need to think through how the day is going to flow, and how involved you want the children to be, and what kind of day you want it to be for them.
There’s no point asking children if they, and their parents, will just be an afterthought. Consider their ages and expectations and their parents’ opinions before making a firm decision.
Do you want to have them at the ceremony, the reception or both? It’s important to think it all through, and plan the details carefully, so the day is stress-free and fun for everyone (kids, parents and other guests too!).
Dressing the Part for Children at Weddings
If you’re including kids in the proceedings as flower girls, junior bridesmaids, page boys, or ring bearers, make sure that their outfits are comfortable and age-appropriate—they’ll look better and be much happier!
Make sure they have a cardi or jacket, so they’re not too hot or cold.
Little girls will usually be delighted with pretty dresses, though don’t assume! Some girls would be way more comfortable in shorts or pants.
Likewise, for the little boys, they won’t take kindly to things that are uncool. They can be picky about what they will and won’t wear.
Will, It Look Bad If You Invite Some Children and Not Others?
Opinions vary, so it’s best to choose a clear rule and stick to it. Kaforey suggests drawing the line at the immediate family since most children who have wedding duties are close relatives, such as a niece or stepchild (but even these children don’t necessarily need to stay for the reception).
If there are just a few children from different families, an age cut-off can work because older kids are more likely to behave, adding that children’s manners are as important as their numbers.
But the more youngsters you have, the more their behaviour will change. If you’re inviting 150 guests, and you have only two little girls that are 10 and 6, it’s darling. “
But if you have 20 children that are ten and older, you could end up with a playing field—and that might not be ideal.
What About Flower Girls and Ring Bearers?
Your sibling’s children should usually take priority over, say, a friend’s, but if this rule of thumb still leaves you in a fix, consider traditional etiquette, which limits your choices for flower girls and ring bearers to children between 3- and 7-years-old.
Younger children simply don’t make it to the end of the aisle without some adult intervention.
An 8-year-old can be promoted to junior bridesmaid, a title she can hold until her 18th birthday when she’s finally allowed to lose the “junior” label.
On the other hand, boys are usually retired from the wedding business from age eight until they’re old enough to be a groomsman, at 18.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. There was once a wedding in which a toddler was pulled down the aisle in a wagon by a little girl, and it was adorable. Check out our exclusive list of Wedding Flower Shops here.
Are There Other Duties for Children?
At the ceremony, children can act as ushers, hand out programs, circulate mass books or yarmulkes, distribute exit-toss packets, and more, depending on your specific event.
At the reception, kids can contribute by doing things like managing a guest book or passing out favours in a basket or on a tray.
We have also seen children (well-rehearsed, of course) perform a group reading and young boys act as “train bearers.”
Just be sure to match the job to the kid’s personality; if a child is introverted and prone to hiding behind Mom’s skirt, that kid most likely isn’t going to love giving a public performance, no matter how talented he or she is.
Important Jobs for the Little Ones At Your Wedding
There are lots of ways, big and small, to include children in your ceremony even if they are not part of the bridal party. Most children love having a particular job and will be delighted to be included; just make sure the job is appropriate for their age.
- Give older kids readings to do for the job of bringing the gifts to the altar (if having a church ceremony) or symbols of the relationship if you’re having a civil or humanist ceremony.
- Children doing readings is a popular option.
- Older, more outgoing children might want to sing a particular song (but beware of this one, you don’t want any Simon Cowell commentary from your uncles about ‘performances’ afterwards)
- Giving wedding programmes to guests before the ceremony is usually the job of the groomsmen or ushers, but more minor children love to be special helpers. Groom-minimen?
- Include your own children or your partner’s children in the lighting of the unity candle or as part of a sand ceremony. These are perfect ways to show children that they are an essential part of their parent’s lives and to show their importance in their parents’ future.
- You could also ask the officiant or priest to mention their names during the ceremony to make them feel extra special.
- And finally, the enjoyable one – kids love confetti, so putting them in charge of handing out bags of confetti or distributing the alternatives is a dream job for kids.
How to Make it Smoothly Through Your Wedding With Kids (without Any Tears)
- Make sure that any of the kids who will have a part or job on the big day attend the rehearsal and are prepared so that they aren’t panicked when it’s go-time on the big day (no one wants to be the kid on the wedding video being prodded and prompted).
- It’s essential if they’re part of the bridal party that they have a practice walking down the aisle in front of people until they are comfortable with it. Even the most outgoing children can get suddenly shy when put on the spot.
- Safety in numbers: an older sibling or groups of kids can make the walk down the aisle easier for a younger child.
- Likewise, readings can also be done in groups if there are some shy children in the bunch – the prayers of the faithful in a catholic ceremony or “wishes for the couple” in a civil or humanist ceremony are perfect for this.
- Don’t get flustered if one of the little ones gets stage fright. It’s your wedding – not a stage show, and small children can’t be expected to perform on cue! So be ready with a plan B if your niece decides she no longer wants to scatter petals down the aisle!
One Tip: Consider having your ushers or groomsmen seat parents of very young children near the end of rows in the church ceremony so they can make a quick and quiet exit if their child starts crying during the ceremony.
Rocking the Reception, Kid-Style!
- Make sure there are some kid-friendly food options on the menu. The food they like will make them happier (read less cranky and fussy) and is often less expensive!
- While usually kids are seated at their parent’s tables, to be honest, kids can often feel left out when it comes to the reception part of the day (the conversation is boring, and the dinner goes on forever…), so if you can, seat children at their own kid’s wedding table for fun.
- Provide fun favours for the kids or age-appropriate goodie bags filled with sweets, miniature games, colouring books or printable games like I Spy. Stick with crayons and colouring pencils, though; no one wants the kids or themselves covered in finger paint or markers! We’ve got lots of ideas for children’s wedding favours here.
- Make sure teens attending the wedding also have their own table; if there are only one or two, seat them at the table where their parents are sitting. Teens will not be impressed by being placed at the children’s table!
- Don’t forget high chairs for the smaller kids. Most venues will have these, but if you are having a marquee or outdoor wedding, you may have to hire these or remind parents to bring them along if needed.
- You can also give kids particular jobs at the wedding reception too, like making sure everyone has signed the guest book, handing out favours or slices of cake.
Do You Have to Invite the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer to Your Reception?
There’s no rule that says you must but think of the bad feelings you’d engender if you didn’t invite them.
It’s not an easy task—both emotionally and logistically—for parents to dress up kids in fancy clothes, prod them to do their given jobs, then tell them that they have to miss the party.
The thoughtful thing to do is to invite them to the reception. If you’re really intent on having a purely adult reception, though, at the very least, allow the flower girl and ring bearer to attend the cocktail hour and offer to find them babysitters, for the rest of the night.
Whether or not you allow children at your wedding is a huge decision, and it’s not something that you should take lightly.
Spend time discussing it with your significant other and determine together what works best for the two of you and your respective families. Need help planning your wedding? Check out our list of Wedding Event Planners here.
So long as you plan ahead and make a unified decision early on, you should have no problem navigating this tricky area of wedding etiquette.